So the dentist says it’s time for your child to get braces, or maybe you’ve decided to improve your own smile. Either way, investing in orthodontic work is a big decision and a big investment. 

Orthodontic treatment options have come a long way in recent years. The “metal mouth” that was once the bane of teenage years is no more. People wanting to correct their teeth now have options for achieving a more perfect smile with greater comfort and less impact on their appearance. Braces have improved dramatically, now made with materials that more closely match tooth enamel. Invisalign is a relatively new option offering even less impact on appearance, and quick results. When faced with the choice, which one is right for you or your child?

Traditional Braces braces

Traditional braces have been around for decades, and many of us either had braces as children, or know someone who did. Braces consist of attaching brackets to the teeth with a dental glue, connecting the brackets with flexible wires, and attaching the wires to the brackets with small rubber bands. Teeth are straightened by adjusting these wires on a regular basis, until the desired result is achieved. Where brackets used to be made of metal, they are now available in materials that more closely match the enamel of the teeth, wires are thinner, and rubber bands are clear, so the braces aren’t as obvious as in previous generations. You can even get rubber bands in various colors for a fun look (maybe favorite team colors or holiday colors). Patients visit their orthodontist once a month for adjustments. Braces are usually worn for two years, but the time frame depends upon the complexity of the correction, and most people need to continue to wear a retainer at night to maintain alignment. 

Benefits to traditional braces include:

  • Consistency: Due to the braces being attached to the teeth, alignment is constantly being affected.
  • Lower cost: Traditional braces generally cost $1800-$5000.
  • Complexity: Braces are recommended for treating complex issues, such as teeth that are crowded, crooked, protruding, or with irregular spacing. 

The downside to braces includes:

  • Discomfort: Pain and discomfort experienced due to wires and brackets rubbing on gums and inside the mouth, as well as from the teeth and jaw adjusting.
  • Avoid certain foods: Certain foods can damage braces, and need to be avoided. These foods include gum, popcorn, biting into whole apples, and anything very hard or sticky.
  • Cleaning: Wearers must brush and floss at least twice daily to keep food from getting stuck in the braces and prevent tooth decay.


Introduced in 1999, Invisalign is a very popular option for a select group of patients. Invisalign uses custom-made BPA-free clear plastic aligner trays, placed over the teeth to gradually straighten teeth over time. Most people who choose Invisalign have slightly crooked teeth or smaller gaps between their teeth, and treatment usually lasts 6-18 months. Invisalign patients change aligner trays about every 2 weeks, and visit their orthodontist every 4-6 weeks to monitor progress. Just like with braces, many people need to continue to wear a retainer at night to maintain alignment.

Pros to using Invisalign:

  • Inconspicuous: The aligner trays are clear, and can be removed as needed, so they don’t impact your appearance.
  • No dietary restrictions: The aligner trays are taken out before eating, so you can eat all of the foods you enjoy without fear of damaging the trays.
  • Less pain and discomfort: Although there will still be some discomfort from the teeth shifting, wearing the aligner trays will not cause any mouth pain or sores.Cons to using Invisalign:
  • More expensive: Invisalign usually costs about $5000.
  • Cleaning and maintenance: Although trays are removed before eating, it is important to brush teeth after every meal before reinserting the trays to prevent discoloration. Trays also require daily cleaning.
  • Less consistent: Since Invisalign trays can be removed easily, wearers need to be diligent in wearing the trays 22-24 hours per day for optimal results.

The Right Choice?

Traditional braces and Invisalign are both safe and effective options for correcting crooked teeth and misalignment. Talk to our doctors at Virginia Orthodontic Partners about the right choice for you or your child. We will advise you based upon the correction needed, desired results, your lifestyle, and your budget. Schedule a complimentary consultation online today.